Recently several friends have asked if I’m still “doing that closet thing.” I am! I’ve been dressing with a limited wardrobe for over a year now, and I can’t imagine going back to my packed closet.
I haven’t written about it lately for a couple reasons. Most of my time has been spent getting my vintage-selling business off the ground, and my blog has languished a bit in the process. But my main reason for not writing about my capsule wardrobe is that I don’t think about it much anymore; this is just how I dress now.
Yesterday marked the end of my three month winter collection. Quite a few pieces carried over from fall, and I added some lovely new (and new to me) finds. I haven’t documented my looks or taken any bathroom mirror selfies this season. I’ve just…gotten dressed.
Capsule dressing has become a way of life for me.
While I haven’t been thinking much about my clothing lately, I have been thinking about fashion and how we choose what we wear. When I decided to try Project 333 last March, I first began researching, looking for any tips on capsule wardrobes, pinning lists of “must haves” and trying to figure out what I “needed” in my closet.
One type of advice that seemed to pop up again and again was the ubiquitous “How to Dress for Your Body Type.” If you’ve ever flipped through a style magazine or scrolled through the Women’s Fashion category on Pinterest, you’ve certainly encountered one of these articles or infographics. Perhaps you found it helpful.
I found all this body shape dressing advice…interesting.
If you are somehow unfamiliar with these types of articles, here’s the overview:
- You compare your body visually or with measurements to various geometric shapes or fruits and see which one is the closest match. You might be a pear (smaller on top, bigger through the hips and thighs), an apple (larger bust, fuller waistline), a banana / rectangle (straight up and down), or, if you are very fortunate, an hourglass (evenly proportioned bust and hips with a defined waist).
- You read and follow the advice for selecting the silhouettes and styles that are best suited to your particular shape.
For a long time I read these articles without questioning why they sparked a twinge of shame in me. I have never struggled with serious body image issues, and I generally feel good about how I look. But something about these articles left me feeling like I didn’t measure up.
As I researched in preparation for building a capsule wardrobe, I began to notice this little shame monster and question what might be behind it. As I read more of these body shape articles and how they advised I dress my body, I noticed some common words and themes emerging:
- avoid drawing attention to…
- trouble areas
- problem areas
- create a ________ silhouette
- even out your body
- create curves
- de-emphasize curves
- give the impression of…
- create the appearance of…
- give the illusion of…
Here is what one article had to say:
“The key to dressing a pear…is to create a balanced, hourglass appearance.”
Um, what?!? The key to dressing my body is to make it look like I have a different body? That can’t possibly be right! What if I actually like the body I have?!?
Mathematically, if we are going by bust-waist-hip measurements, I am a pear. And here’s the thing: body shape does not necessarily correlate with size. No matter how much weight I gain or lose, I will never be a rectangle or an hourglass. That is not how my bones are built. And I will not accept that my “pear-ness” demands padded bras and empire waist dresses in order to be presented acceptably.
There are parts of my body I’m more fond of than other parts. I will always prefer to show off my shoulders more than my ankles. And I do love a wide belt, which I guess emphasizes my waist. But I refuse to believe that the best way for us to dress as women is to conceal how we are shaped, to camouflage ourselves, to create the illusion of something else.
I hope I can make fashion choices that reflect more of who I am at the core–a creative individual, a crusader for freedom and redemption, a woman for whom “pear” is not a defining characteristic. I hope we all feel free to make those kinds of choices.
You are more than your dress size.
You are more than your bust line.
You are more than an ankle or a shoulder or a silhouette.
You are more than a number on a scale or a fruit in the produce aisle.
I may not fit in the “lucky you, hourglass” category, but I feel “pear” is not the right word…I’m going with POWERGLASS! It sounds like a superhero shape that has more to do with my heart than my body.
What are your thoughts? Have these articles simplified shopping for you and helped you find things you feel great wearing? Am I completely overreacting? Do you have a superhero shape? I’d love to hear from you!
Now that I’m in the home stretch of my fall Project 333, I thought I’d share an update. This three month term began October 1st and ends December 31st, and so far temperatures have spiked into the 90s and dipped into the 20s Fahrenheit. That’s quite a swing to manage with around 33 items of clothing…
So I’ve cheated a couple times. I had to temporarily pull out my big vintage fisherman sweater and my Sorel boots, and I’ve realized I really don’t have a warm coat or many sweaters left. I’m well equipped for most Southern winters, but last winter (and several days of this one) have pushed my mild winter wardrobe to the brink. My pieces consist primarily of lightweight “fashion jackets” that do little to actually thwart the cold. I’m keeping an eye on the thrift stores for a few warmer pieces, and until then I’ll pile on the layers. Thankfully, most days have lows in the 40s-50s, temps that are comfortably manageable with what I have.
I’ve also decided to keep a few spots in my closet for vintage favorites. My small collection of vintage dresses contains more statement pieces than basics, so I haven’t figured out how to fit them in a 33 item capsule collection. But there are occasions that call for a statement. I’m bringing in a few of these pieces as a sub-collection.
This season I have replaced a few items that no longer work. I bought a new pair of dark wash, high waisted skinny jeans since my others were wearing out and getting a little pointy “tail” in the back. Do you know what I’m talking about? Once it happens, the pants are pretty much done. The old jeans moved on to the “lounge wear” category (or more accurately, the “work wear” category when I’m setting up vintage displays or sorting through things in the garage).
I also ditched the charcoal skirt. I didn’t try it on before including it in my collection (lesson learned!), and it doesn’t fit well at all anymore. I still wore it once, but I immediately pulled it from my closet after seeing the baggy, saggy selfies. A plaid skirt (found on super sale!) has taken its place. While not as versatile, the new skirt is a fun piece that fits my style well, and I expect to wear it plenty this winter.
Oh, and I added a couple new pairs of shoes! I’ll share my accessories at some point.
When I did follow the rules, which was most of the time, I took some bathroom mirror shots to show how I put everything together. Fall clothes are my favorite, and they’re the easiest for me to wear. I really love these clothes, and I don’t have to think too much about them or work too hard to make outfits. I’m wondering if those two things aren’t related, and maybe that’s actually the crux of capsule dressing: effortless style.
Here are some outfits, cheats not included:
Do you have a favorite season for dressing? Have you found a way to incorporate statement pieces in a capsule wardrobe? Are you ready to try this in January?!?
Now that I have been dressing with less, giving things away, and choosing quality over quantity, I have had a realization: aesthetics are powerful. Since paring down my wardrobe, I feel more confident in my clothes. As I thoughtfully add, subtract, and rearrange things in my house and my closet, I find I feel more at home. A thoughtfully designed space can create a sense of peace and welcome.
Recently I had the opportunity to collaborate with View Along the Way and E G Allis Photography . These two talented women have designed a room for a safe house with Out of Darkness, a non-profit committed to fighting sex trafficking in Atlanta, and I created some hand-lettered art for the project. Kelly’s thoughtful design decisions have transformed a room into a place of peace and welcome for women on a healing journey.
Here are the pieces I created:
It was an honor to be a part of this project and contribute to a space where redemption stories are unfolding.
Designed as a diptych, these two pieces are offered as limited edition archival prints.
They are available for preorder now through November 30th and will ship following completion of the presale. (Edited to add: prints are now in stock and available in my Etsy store.) For each print ordered, 20% of the purchase price will be donated to Out of Darkness.
For the past two weeks, my toddler daughter has been asking if it’s fall yet. Every time she’d see a leaf float down into the yard, she would cheer, “It’s FALL!” And now it finally is!
Like my daughter, I’m ready for a new season. At this point in the year (and in my three month capsule wardrobe), I’m itching for a change. Fall is my favorite season, and the corresponding clothes are a big part of that.
As October approaches, I am assessing my wardrobe from the last season and deciding what stays and what goes. Wearing the same 30-something pieces of clothing for three months has taught me some things about myself.
“Sporty” is not a word I would ever use to describe myself or my style, and with that acknowledgement, I’ll be sending my floral track pants and my printed sweatshirt on to new homes. Those outfits felt a bit more casual than I like, and wearing heels to dress them up was impractical for my daily life. No big deal–I spent less than $15 to try out the look, so I don’t feel guilty about consigning or donating the clothes.
I’m also ready to admit that there is a certain length of skirt I will not confidently wear without tights or leggings. I had one such skirt in my summer capsule, and though I wore it often in winter (with tights), I didn’t wear it once in the past three months. That’s okay, too. I’ll skip this skirt for my fall collection and maybe bring it back when the weather is consistently cool enough to wear tights with it.
Several things have also worn out after three (or in some cases, six) months of regular wear. I have already replaced my striped tee, and I’ll be swapping my striped dress and striped tank for my fall closet. Hooray for new stripes!
I bought the (nearly) new striped pieces from the thrift store, and I spent less than $25 on all three of them.
Other retiring pieces include my black crochet top tee (too faded), my beloved beaded sandals (falling apart, and I’ve already glued them back together twice), and the light wash jeans. I usually wear dark wash jeans, but I thought a lighter wash might be nice for summer. So many fashion bloggers made them work, and I felt inspired to give it a try. I paid less than $8 for those secondhand Anthropologie jeans, and it was worth it to discover that I do actually prefer a darker wash.
With the change in seasons, the worn out pieces, the mistakes, and the items I’ve been wearing regularly for months (some since March!), I am packing up or giving away almost everything in my summer collection. Some of the pieces will go in the drawer until it’s time to reassess next spring.
I’ve had some hits and misses in my wardrobe choices this summer, and I feel like I have a clearer understanding of my style. For summer, I included some pieces that I liked but weren’t my favorites; they seemed like necessary basics. For fall, I’m ditching that philosophy. I pretty much love every single thing that will be in my closet from October to December. I feel happier with my closet overall, and I’ll be interested to see if I miss those basic pieces. In the meantime, I’ve started putting outfit ideas together, and nearly all the combinations–even the weird and quirky ones–feel especially like me. I can’t wait to share them.
So…October (and thus a new season of Project 333) starts in a week. Are you ready to try a minimalist wardrobe challenge?
I’m about six weeks into my second round of Project 333, a minimalist wardrobe challenge that involves wearing just thirty-three items of clothing for three months. I bend the rules by not counting shoes and accessories in my 33 items, though I’ve chosen to limit those as well. I started this round with 28 items of clothing, and I have since lost one item and gained two (more on that later!) to bring my working total to 30. I left a little space in my count this time so I could fill some holes or bring in a couple fresh items, and I think this is a good approach for me.
Here are some snapshots of outfits I’ve put together this round:
Like I mentioned, I have made a couple modifications to my collection since beginning this round. The mint tee (seen in the fourth outfit from the top left) has not survived. Pasta with marinara sauce, a toddler, and overly ambitious stain removal tactics left the top with two large bleached out circles. So that shirt has left the collection.
I have added two items that were both hand me downs (hand me overs?): a maxi dress not yet pictured and a pair of straight leg designer jeans (seen in the bottom row, third from the left). Free clothes can be a help or a hindrance to dressing with less. In this case, these two items fit me and my style well, and they filled gaps in my wardrobe. I was thankful to accept these generous offers.
I’ve also noticed some differences in seasonal capsule wardrobes. In my first round, I tried to make a different outfit for each day of the project. I made a game of it, and I enjoyed the creative styling challenge. Making unique combinations was easier when the weather was cooler and I could layer sweaters, jackets, and scarves.
Though I have fewer layering options in the summer heat, I’m still finding plenty of new combinations. I’m also repeating outfits at will. The second outfit from the top left (striped tee, dark skinny jeans, black canvas sandals) has been one of my summer favorites.
Another aspect that makes summer more challenging is laundry. I live in the Deep South of the United States, and the weather gets HOT! Sweat is an unfortunate summer reality, and my items require more frequent laundering this time around. I have adjusted, but I’ll be happy when the weather cools down again in a few months.
I have now been dressing with less since March, and I am dressing with more freedom and confidence than ever before. I haven’t fully cracked the code on my impulse shopping, but I’m making strides. I can now say with assurance that I have enough. Thirty-three items are enough–more than enough, even. I would rather have a closet contain 33 items I love than one bursting with things I sort of, kind of like.
Are you thinking about trying a capsule wardrobe or Project 333? Are you already dressing with less? I’d love to hear about your experience!
My last post was all about simplifying, but what if you need to add to your closet?
I’ve already admitted I have a bit of a shopping problem. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I decided to simplify my wardrobe. I wanted to say goodbye to regrets and impulses that clogged up my closet and were seldom worn. Cutting back on the retail therapy is helping me maintain my cleaner closet.
But clothes do wear out, especially if you are wearing them more often! Lifestyles, jobs, seasons, sizes, and bodies change. Sometimes we do need to shop in order to maintain a functional wardrobe. This is a huge relief to me, as I’m not ready to give up shopping entirely.
I wanted to let you in on my biggest secret for building and maintaining a capsule wardrobe on a budget: thrifting.
Here are some looks from my late winter/early spring wardrobe. Each of these outfits includes at least one secondhand item.
Nearly a third of my summer capsule is secondhand. My closet includes clothes from J. Crew, Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and Stuart Weitzman. All of these items together cost me less than $50 because I bought them at the thrift store. Most of these items appeared barely worn, and some were new with tags.
I don’t care much about brands, but I am thinking more about quality as I shop. Buying things secondhand makes higher quality items more budget friendly.
I started shopping at thrift stores when I was in junior high school, primarily so I would have a wardrobe that was different from what my classmates were wearing. I liked the idea of building a look that wasn’t straight off the mall racks, and I still have an eclectic style in my home and my wardrobe. I continue to enjoy treasure hunting and regard my best thrift finds somewhat like trophies. I’ve tried to restrain myself from enthusiastically responding to a compliment with “Thanks! This was only five bucks!”, as I’ve found most people aren’t as excited about my deals as I am.
If you’re new to thrifting and think you’d like to give it a try, here are some of my guidelines:
1. Look for quality and value. Familiarize yourself with labels so you can recognize whether a shirt came from Walmart or Neiman Marcus. In general, a secondhand Old Navy tank top is not going to be a good value, as it could be found new and on sale for a similar price. Check for condition (no pilled sweaters, stains or twisted side seams). Factor any necessary dry cleaning or alterations into the total cost. For example, I found $100 jeans for $7. Even though they need a $10 alteration for the best fit, they are still a good total investment for me.
2. Try it on. Even if a tag lists a size you don’t normally wear, it might be worth trying on the item. Clothes sometimes end up in thrift stores because of mismarked sizes or inaccurate fit, and these mistakes could be to your advantage. Sizing conventions for vintage clothing and international brands also vary greatly, so don’t count something out based on listed size alone. Also consider whether an inexpensive alteration might make the item a perfect fit. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you could even do these yourself!
3. Have a plan. Make a list of items you’re looking for to replace or fill the current or next season of your wardrobe. It’s helpful to think in advance of wardrobe needs when thrifting, as it’s unlikely you’ll find the exact item you’re looking for on the first try. My striped tunic dress is starting to wear out, so this is something I look for every time I go to the thrift store. I don’t need it urgently, but I can see the need on the horizon. I also want some type of olive or muted green top for fall, so I look through these color sections when I shop.
4. Try out trends. If you’ve been wanting to try a trend but don’t want to invest in an item you may only wear for a season or two, thrifting is a great way to give it an inexpensive go! I found my floral joggers (new with tags!) for $6 at the thrift store. I’ll enjoy them while I wear them, and I won’t feel bad about donating them back to the thrift store when I move on. For trendy items that aren’t likely to become classics you wear for years, buying secondhand can keep your cost per wear low. Since trends are often revisiting fashions of earlier eras, you may even find a vintage item that looks fashion forward (I’m looking at you, 90s crop tops!).
5. Go often. I regularly explore three or four thrift stores in my area. Because I go often, I am generally familiar with the merchandise and can spot new items fairly quickly. I actually enjoy searching through every item, but becoming familiar with stores in my area makes it easier to quickly browse. Merchandise also turns over regularly, so going often gives you the best chance of finding the item on your list before someone else does.
6. Search outside your area. Thrift stores often vary greatly by location. I like to occasionally look in other parts of town for a different selection, and I also try to find thrift stores when I’m traveling. Areas favored by retirees may have great vintage merchandise, and places inhabited by young professionals may have good options for an office work wardrobe. You never know what you’ll find, but trying out different places will give you the broadest selection.
7. Shop online. If you don’t have thrift stores conveniently nearby, or if you prefer not to rummage through racks, you now have some great online options. Sites like Twice and thredUP buy and sell quality used clothing. You can search by size, color, or brand. People can buy and sell clothes directly with one another through apps like Poshmark, and even Goodwill has the option to shop a selection of goods online. Of course, there’s always ebay (where I recently bought gently used boots for fall for 20% of their retail cost) and the vintage section of Etsy. If you don’t mind paying a little more for convenience, you may find shopping secondhand online can help you build your budget capsule wardrobe.
What about you? Are you an expert treasure hunter with more tips to share? Are you a fledgling thrifter ready to give it a try? Do secondhand clothes have a place in your wardrobe?
Full disclosure: this wardrobe simplifying thing is still a work in progress for me. I have clothes in two closets, one dresser, and two under-bed boxes. I still have too many clothes. But I am making progress!
Here is my closet from February and my closet now:
I have also done some major cleaning out in the second (guest room) closet. A couple months ago, that was an “open at your own risk” type of closet, the type to open v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. It was packed to a comical, pile-toppling point. If you came to my house now, you could not only open the closet door, but also safely step inside! The single rack is still full of clothes on hangers (mostly my off season or vintage pieces), but a guest could easily stash a suitcase there. Progress.
I’m still learning, and I feel my relationship to my belongings being transformed. Simplifying is a process.
If you are interested in simplifying your wardrobe and don’t know where to begin, here are some ideas. These are things I’ve found helpful in my closet makeover, and perhaps they can get you started on your own journey.
1. Start the “keep” pile with your favorites and your basics.
Begin by setting aside the items you love and wear often, the things you know you want to keep. Sometimes it’s easier to eliminate some clothes once you’ve identified what stays. Also include your wardrobe basics or staples, like your favorite jeans.
Note that your basics might not be typical neutrals, like a trench coat or a white oxford shirt. Just because these items appear on many “must have” lists does not mean you must have them! I do have a trench, but in a darker tan that suits me better than classic khaki, and I prefer my blue button down to white, especially since I spend much of my time with a toddler–crisp white and everyday childhood messes do not mix well for me. High-waisted, rust-colored shorts might not be everyone’s basic, but for me they are a staple. They go with all my favorite tops, can be worn with flats or heels, and I even sometimes rock them with tights and a sweater in the fall.
I love pattern mixing, and for me, stripes are a basic. I wear my striped tops with just about any and everything. A capsule wardrobe can be black and white and gray, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
Find your own staples, pieces you feel great wearing and can easily combine into outfits. Let these be your signature pieces and form the base of your wardrobe.
2. Eliminate duplicates.
You may find you have two or three very similar items but generally prefer wearing one of them. When I put my colorful tanks (or my oxford shirts, or my patterned skirts) side by side, I usually have a clear front-runner. The others serve as back ups or extras, and I can free up closet space by keeping the favorites and donating seconds. Now instead of going to my second best when my favorite item is dirty, I just do laundry. It’s slightly less convenient, but I actually feel happier and more comfortable wearing only my top tier clothing.
3. Store out of season and out of size items.
If you have the space (under bed storage, an extra drawer or closet space), store things you aren’t currently wearing, or at least move them out of the front of your closet. Since I had a baby two and a half years ago, I finally put those last couple maternity dresses in storage. No need to have these items right in my sight line when I’m dressing each day. The weather has also gotten hot, so under bed boxes and space bags keep my sweaters out of the way and moth-free during the summer. When the seasons change, it feels like a treasure hunt to rediscover what’s been hiding in storage. If space is at a premium, a wardrobe bag in the back of your closet or a box on a high shelf could keep these items out of the way.
4. Remove things that are worn out, stained, or beyond repair.
When I examined some of the clothes I wasn’t wearing, particularly former favorites, I discovered that many of them were worn out. It’s hard for me to say goodbye to once beloved clothes, but I am not going to feel good wearing the pilling sweater or the shirt with twisted side seams. If the items cannot be cleaned or repaired, I am better off without them crowding my closet. If you are particularly attached to something that is no longer fit for daily wear, consider whether it could transition to lounge wear. This is the best second life I’ve found for moth-eaten sweaters that I still like but wouldn’t wear out of the house.
5. Find new ways to wear what you have.
This won’t get anything out of your closet, but it might grow your appreciation for some things you already have. This is one of my favorite uses for Pinterest, where I keep a secret board of capsule wardrobe inspiration. I included the mustard cropped chinos from my spring capsule in my summer collection, and when I search “mustard pants outfit” or “mustard color combo”, I get lots of new ideas. If you have a piece you’re unsure about or wonder if certain colors work together, search for how others have worn them and find inspiration. You can do a regular internet search as well, but I like how easy it is to collect and store inspiration on Pinterest.
Also think about whether some pieces could be worn unconventionally. Two of my dresses also serve as tops when tucked into a skirt or knotted at the waist with a pair of pants. The two outfits on the right, from my late winter/early spring Project 333, show that in action.
6. Discover what you’re actually wearing (and eliminate what you’re not wearing).
Try the hanger trick or keep a log (written or photographic), or use an app or online resource to document what you wear for a season. If you are struggling with some of the previous tips, this one might lend some objectivity to the simplifying process. Becoming aware of unworn clothes may make it easier to part with them or could motivate you to make new outfits and transform these items into favorites.
Seeing what’s not working can also help with future shopping. Common themes among my unworn clothes included demanding care requirements (dry clean only, etc.), unflattering styles and colors, or items unsuited for the climate where I live. I now check care labels when I shop, and I limit “hand wash” and “dry clean only” items. I have also avoided buying additional cold climate items like heavy sweaters or lined pants; I live in the Deep South of the United States, and I will rarely have a chance to wear those clothes.
7. Go for a trial separation if you have trouble letting go.
Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, and sometimes out of sight is out of mind. And sometimes clichés also apply to clothes. Try stashing clothes about which you are undecided. I kept a pile in that doom closet for a couple months and then reassessed. Most of those items have since been donated, but I’m holding on to a few until I make my fall wardrobe. A box or bag in an out of the way place can give you a break from the clothes. If you haven’t accessed the stash or thought about its contents for a specified time (I recommend between one and six months), you might be ready to part ways. You could do this sight unseen or go through items again–whatever works for you. Or you might discover you are more attached to an item than you realized and choose to keep it in your closet.
Ready to try it? Let me know how it goes!
Have you already cleaned out your closet? What helped you get started?